It's an apple-shaped pillow, faux-velvet red. Lauren pulls it from a box of still-packed linens, toppling a pile of blankets. The garage is half filled with these packed boxes, and almost one year after moving in, I'm still looking at them skeptically; if I haven't needed them yet, I don't plan on needing them at all.
"Mama, what is this?" She turns it over and hugs it close. A dusty smell poofs from its center.
"That's GG's graduation pillow," I say. "Do you remember GG?"
"Mmmhmm." She nods and walks into the house, swinging the apple pillow by its loop of yarn.
Incongruously, it most resembles a Christmas ornament, but enormous. It used to hang from a nail in my Grandma's study/library/sitting room, proudly displayed for all to see. Not that we needed the reminder. We cheered when she walked across the stage in a blue cap and gown, smiling for all the world to admire. A great-grandmother accomplishing a forgotten goal sixty-five years later: a G.E.D.
"Why did she have a grad-a-dation pillow? Why did she give it to you? Because she was about to be dead?"
It always stings to hear death spoken of so matter-of-factly by little ones. I cringe, but admit the truth: kids see it straight-forward. Without understanding all the strings of emotion braided around the edges of the words.
"I think she just wanted me to remember. And do you know -- she probably wanted you to remember too. She loved you so much!"
"You should have given her a picture of me when I was all grown up. Before she died, I mean, you should have given her a picture of me."
I smile. "But you were just a baby! Even I didn't know what you would look like when you got older. You know what, though--" I'm treading softly now. This is a conversation I'm always awkward with. It's not heavy, exactly, just too broad to fit comfortably in my grasp.
"I believe that GG is watching us from heaven. Paying attention to us and loving us even when we can't see her." There, I breathe. No pressure, just thinking out loud.
Lauren squeezes the pillow in her lap. She's sat down on the floor in my bathroom, where I'm laying towels in the cupboard. She thinks for a minute, and clears her throat.
"And whenever we get hurt or scared or something bad is happening to us, GG is in heaven -- she's kind of like...blessing us?"
My baby girl's eyes are huge and blue, young reproductions of the bright eyes my grandma, herself, had. They stare at me with questions, but when I try to answer, I find myself looking deeper into her, looking for answers there. Swimming in impossibilities and dreams and things I won't know until I'm old and soft. Until I'm in the arms of my Lord. There's a bit of an angel there, in those indigo eyes.
"Yes, that's it exactly," I whisper. "She's still blessing us, even now."